Idea Bank

Every summer, as part of her homework, my daughter is required to make a bank. She’s supposed to come up with an original design, and the result is entered in an Idea Bank Contest.  Of course, as the head teacher reminded us parents, the kids need help.

At the beginning of summer, I was thinking along the lines of a papier mache rabbit, or a head with yarn for hair. Or some kind of house constructed from all of the popsicle sticks we’ve accumulated over the past couple of months. But now, with only a few days left to go, I’m casting about for something quick and easy that we haven’t done before.We stopped by the bookstore yesterday so that I could look for a craft book. At the beginning of summer, there are oodles of such books on display – books intended to give parents and kids inspiration for how to while the August days away. Those books are gone. In Japan, everything has its season.

I wonder why my daughter has to make the same thing, year after year? What are we supposed to do with all of those banks? Is some sort of lesson in money management embedded in the task?

My son’s school doesn’t have the same requirement. The kids made banks in year one (many of them used ready-made kits). This summer, my son is supposed to paint a picture on the theme of “freedom.” I was thinking doves, people of many colors holding hands, etc., but he needs to come up with the idea on his own.  I tried to help him out a bit. “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘freedom’?” I asked. My son said, “Getting out of jail.”


3 thoughts on “Idea Bank

  1. Since my son is in a private Japanese Saturday school in America, he just has a “jukenkyu” — research project — due each year. Students aren’t given and specific assignment and have enormous latitude in what to do — I’ve seen everything from the student’s summer travelogues written in diary form to dioramas and science projects.

    Maybe your son needs to think of what he’d do after getting out of jail.

  2. On the question of why your daughter has to make the same thing, year after year, I wonder if it is the same reason my son had to make a calendar each of the three years he was in pre-school in Japan. While a calendar is obviously a useful thing to make every year, the basic design of the calendar never varied: 12 sheets of coloured paper, the top half decorated with designs that combined origami and hand-drawn pictures appropriate for the month, the bottom half a hand-drawn grid with the days of the week and dates inserted by hand, Saturdays in blue, Sundays and public holidays in red, the rest in black. By making the “same” thing each year, the child’s progress in a variety of skills was immediately evident to anyone who saw it, including the child him/herself. It took me a couple of years to fully realise the value of this approach. Looking at the three calendars now, I can also see how my son was less settled in his third year so that the calendar he made in his second year is actually “better” in many ways. By the way, the days and dates were written in coloured pencil which does not rub out easily so if an error was made the child had to paste a white square on top with the number written correctly. Sometimes, it would take several attempts to get the number right, in which case the layers of white squares formed little mountains on the page!
    I don’t know if you can relate any of this to what your daughter is being asked to do or not …

  3. My daughter also has a research project, which is “unagi,” or fresh water eels. This was pretty much decided by her teacher and I after she painted a picture of herself holding an eel. (The picture was also a part of her summer homework.)

    Your response is interesting, Angela. There may be some truth to that. For the record, we wound up making a papier-mache piggybank. It took three days, and Lilia did most of the work. It was our most ambitious bank ever, and she seemed very proud of the result, so I think it was worth it.

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